Written by Daniella Litvak
When I was a kid, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and numerous adaptations gave me nightmares. So I’m not surprised Wonderland and its inhabitants inspired many other artists towards darker interpretations. Even if an Alice story is targeted directly towards children, the creator’s intent doesn’t always come across and could end up creating something terrifying. However, if you are looking for a truly family friendly version of Alice in Wonderland, look no further than the Rose Center Theater.
Alice is a young girl who wishes she could live a world full of nonsense. Just as she finishes expressing this sentiment during the song “In My Mind,” the White Rabbit appears. Alice follows the White Rabbit down a rabbit hole and into Wonderland. It’s there where Alice encounters an assortment of eccentric characters: dancing flowers, talking animals, and many more. The denizens of Wonderland are diverse, but they all have a penchant for nonsense. Or as the characters themselves would sing, “Everyone Is Mad.” At first this delights Alice, but then she starts wondering whether she should be looking for the way out.
Setting is a key element of Alice in Wonderland, and Rose Center Theater’s production team does an amazing job. The backdrops, the lighting and the props are perfect. Wonderland also makes good use of a screen. Its projections add grandeur to locations like the Queen of Hearts’ garden. It provides visual gags during some of the other scenes. The use of the screen also allows for innovative ways to portray Alice’s fall down the rabbit hole and the Cheshire Cat’s invisibility antics.
The costuming is equally impressive. Wearing the iconic blue dress and white pinafore, Mackenzie Riddle –who was playing Alice that evening –looks like a storybook illustration brought to life. All the costumes express a lot about each character. Sparkles are used to good effect. Some costumes are very pretty –like the Flowers. Others are more comical, such as the Caterpillar’s costume, which features extra legs the actress can manipulate. All of them are incredibly adorable.
This brings me to the acting. Don’t let their young age fool you because the entire cast is extremely talented. It’s a large ensemble, but they work very well together. The show’s choreography is ambitious: ballet, cartwheels, a chorus line, and more. They made it look easy. Sometimes the lyrics and dialogue were a bit mumbled, but it doesn’t really detract from the show.
The toughest part of reviewing Alice in Wonderland is analyzing the story. Plot doesn’t really matter much. Even allowing for the nonsense Wonderland runs on, there can be some confusion about what is happening on stage. The songs aren’t Disney level ear worms, but they’re fun. My favorite songs were the up tempo numbers that indulged in wordplay: “Father William,” “The Song of ‘M,” and “We’re Two, But One Of A Kind.”
How faithful is this version to the source material is a tricky question to answer. Going off memory, pop culture osmosis, and some light research, this version seems to feature most of the significant characters and events from the book. Like some other adaptations, this show also included characters from the sequel Through the Looking Glass, which was a good idea because the Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum sequence was great. The only Alice element that seemed to be missing from the show was Alice’s growing and shrinking. While this aspect was likely left out for pragmatic staging reasons, it seemed odd for Alice to mention she had been changing size all day when it hadn’t really been portrayed. While it’s not a hundred percent faithful to its source, the show is referential and captures the spirit of Lewis Carroll’s books.
If you can, share the experience with a young theatergoer or if you think you’re too old to enjoy Rose Center Theater’s production of Alice in Wonderland, ask yourself whether there still isn’t some part of you that wants to follow the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole.
November 13 – 22, 2015
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